I asked last time about fears--- what fears possess any of you who might be reading this:
What terrifies you more--- death or the mirror? What leaves you more paralyzed with shame and fear---- what you might see in a potential lover's eyes or what you might see if you examined your body all on your own? What fears do you have when you think of love and romance or of being next to someone else in bed?
Tell me what goes through your mind on nights like this.
If you're out there reading this, I hope you will respond to that question. It's something I'd like to discuss--- what people are afraid of about sex and romance, and where those fears come from.
One friend--- someone I've know on-line for perhaps a dozen years now ---wrote back to say that what terrifies her is having someone judge her as being no good as a lover. I had to stop and think about her answer for a bit. I don't know that I've ever had that particular fear. I have my set of fears and near-phobias, but not exactly that one.
I think I always assumed that I knew enough about what to do in bed to demonstrate at least minimal competence. I grew up in the days when it seemed like every popular magazine was flooded with articles about the mysteries of the female orgasm and the things men needed to be able to do to make it happen--- the days when books in the same genre as "The Joy of Sex" were everywhere. I read those things and took notes. I probably mean that very literally, by the way. I took notes on everything else I read in my early and mid-teens--- history, culture, literature ---and I'd have made notes about what to do in bed with a girl as well. I'd have had at least a theoretical understanding of things you could (or should) do while having sex. Even if I had no actual experience, I was reasonably sure that I could pull up enough literary references and how-to checklists to at least get by while I mastered the learning curve. The same technique worked for everything else in my life--- university, graduate school, living abroad. Did it work in practice? I think it did, or at least I was never brought face-to-face with contrary evidence. No girl ever mocked me as incompetent; girls went to bed with me more than once. I took that as evidence that I was doing something more-or-less right, that I was doing whatever at least well enough to avoid mockery and derision. Let's be clear, now. Avoiding mockery and derision would have been the very definition of success in those days (these days, too, if I'm honest).
Well, I was trained to do History. All History is about revision. I probably wouldn't go back and interview girls who've had sex with me in the past. That's far too risky. Never count on the past--- that is something I believe in. What a girl says about my performance ten or twenty years on may have nothing to do with my actual skills then. Yes, she could've used the intervening years to have enough experiences to be able to say more clearly what she likes or finds good or bad in bed. But it could also be that in those years her own view of herself has changed, or just that her own needs and desires have changed over time. There's no guarantee that what she thought was good for her twenty years ago doesn't strike her as bad now because she's changed, not because it wasn't actually good then. Or so I tell myself.
Well, the point may be that I was never afraid that I wasn't at least minimally competent as a lover--- good enough to have my performance pass by without derision or mockery. I'll settle for not being praised if I can just avoid being mocked and treated with contempt.
I have no idea what the latest iteration of the Arbitrary Social Rules sets out as the criteria for male competence. I hate not having guidelines and a checklist, but so far--- so far ---I seem to have avoided being derided for failing to live up to the criteria. There's at least that.
My own fears all come not from performance as such but from the growing, gnawing, compulsive fear that no matter how competent I might be as a lover, it wouldn't matter--- that being a creature trapped inside in a decaying, untrustworthy body makes any potential performance meaningless. I find it harder and harder to look at myself in the mirror, and I certainly find it harder and harder to imagine allowing anyone else to see me or touch me. I am and remain terrified and sickened by the fear that my flesh--- sight, smell, taste, feel ---might inspire disgust.
It's my set of fears, of course. But I still find it more and more difficult to leave my rooms after dark and go out. If I'm to meet a young companion, I scrub myself until I literally bleed and then take a handful of pills designed to shut down any number of biological processes. I'm finding it harder and harder to eat at all if I'm on a date--- or to eat for a couple of days before. I can't risk my body betraying me from the inside. Flesh is a problem on any number of levels, and it's all the more vile as it decays.
There was a time in my life when I was afraid to fly--- a fear that came over me suddenly and fiercely and kept me from traveling for several years. These days I feel the same kind of fears gnawing away at my life.
That's where I am tonight.
If you're reading this, you're still invited to tell me about your own fears about sex and romance. I'd like to hear from you on that.
I wouldn't mind hearing from you about what you think the male criteria for Good In Bed might be. What checklists would you create?
I'll certainly be here to read any messages. I won't be able to go out. I won't be able to have anyone over who'd have to look at me or touch me or be near me as my body decays and turns against me.